The Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Reverend Dr Ammisshadai Owusu-Amoah, has urged individuals and businesses to make tax payment a religious obligation.
He said all must play their part by honouring their tax obligations, as commanded in the scripture for them to pay taxes, after which they can hold government accountable for it.
Rev. Owusu-Amoah gave the advice in an address read on his behalf by Assistant Commissioner at the Office of the Commissioner-General, Dominic Naab, at a GIZ Validation Workshop with the National Steering Committee on the Inter-Faith Platform on Accountability in Accra yesterday.
“The GRA is mandated to administer and collect domestic taxes to fund budget expenditure. The question we all need to ask is: are we all paying taxes? Should we be declaring our sources of income and declaring tax to be paid? Are we fulfilling our civic obligations by supporting government to carry out its work?” he quizzed.
Importance of taxation
He noted that taxation was undoubtedly the bedrock of every society and, therefore, citizens were obliged by law to pay taxes as part of their civic responsibility.
He said such taxes went a long way to support government’s development agenda by financing re-current expenditure such as the payment of personal emoluments of public / civil sector employees, financing capital expenditure including roads, financing social intervention projects such as the Free Senior High School programme, and making statutory payments to institutions such as GETFund.
However, he said only about 20 per cent of eligible taxpayers paid income tax, and research findings had attributed that to low taxpayer knowledge among Ghanaians.
According to him, the GRA was unable to reach everybody in the country with regard to tax education, recognising that an opportunity in leveraging on religious actors and their platforms to carry the message on taxation far was important.
“Our esteemed religious leaders, we all know, are very influential in our part of the world and as a Revenue Authority, it is prudent we take steps to partner you to support our tax education efforts. With your several platforms with huge followers, you are better positioned to serve as agents of change to influence citizens’ attitude to paying taxes and holding government institutions accountable,” he said.
The GIZ-Governance for Inclusive Development Program (GovID) is supporting the government to increase domestic revenues, public financial management and accountability.
Consequently, in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, tax policies were developed and existing ones revised in collaboration with the GRA all aimed at making revenue administration more effective.
In recognition of the potential a cooperation with Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) could help to reach out to potential taxpayers, a base study was conducted by GovID - GIZ in trying to understand how religious and traditional leaders could be included to support the mobilisation of domestic revenues in Ghana.
The Programme Manager of the GovID - GIZ Ghana, Raphael Frerking, said the role of religious actors came out very strongly in that baseline study: we found that the trust many citizens place in them makes them interesting stakeholders to increase tax compliance in emphasising the linkages between tax payments, accountability and good governance.
“We convinced the GIZ Global Sector Programme “Religion and Development” in a call for proposals together with our partners and received some additional funds to intensify our approach and pilot some first interventions. During our dialogue sessions, all parties have been very open in discussing how their engagements have been in the past, what did not work and ideas for a better engagement going forward,” he said.
He added that within a short period, some key milestones had been achieved, including the setting up a National Steering Committee and establishing the inter-faith dialogue platforms in three pilot regions (Accra, Kumasi and Tamale).
“All of them have been trained and could increase their knowledge in taxes and accountability. Going forward, we would like to discuss how to go beyond this pilot regions and engage other religious leaders in the other regions,” he said.